Gifts of Summer

The first tomato of the season peeks out from beneath the leaves and branches

The last several weeks have been a time of rapid change and rich harvest in the garden. Like much of the country in July, we’ve had intense heat, but fortunately here it has alternated with good soaking rains. Everything has been thriving, including the bugs and weeds. I went away to visit my folks last weekend, and when I returned after just two days I couldn’t believe the forest of weeds that had shot up. I’ve been having great fun watching dollhouse sized vegetables grow into succulent plate worthy produce. One of my favorites has been the bean.  On a single shoot you can see all stages of the life cycle, from blossom to embryonic bean to mature bean.  I was surprised to see how much the bees love the bean flower – which made me reluctant to spray them with anything that would deter the beetles, and increased my by-hand bug killin’ workload.  We’ve got green beans, which we’ve been eating, and white and black soup beans, which will dry on the vine and be put away for winter.

Itty baby green beans and blossoms

Mature green beans

The tomatoes are starting to come in, and M has been busy making pesto from the abundant basil.  We’ve also been enjoying the chard, lettuce, beets, carrots, and a few parsnips. Cucumbers have been fairly abundant, despite the fact that the plants were ravaged by cucumber beetles and moles.  M made a fresh rhubarb pie last night – yum!

Basil is thriving in the heat

Cucumber

Chard

We’ve been utterly feasting on blueberries, both from H & M’s bushes and from neighbors, as well as a few wild blackberries.  There was a stretch of two or three weeks there where I was literally eating blueberries at every meal, every day.  Most fruit and veggies are better freshly picked than store-bought, and blueberries are exceptionally so. We also froze about 4 gallons of berries for M to use in pies and cooking in the winter. To prevent the berries from sticking together in clumps when frozen, we first spread them in a one-berry-thick layer on cookie sheets to freeze, consolidating into freezer bags later on. Since they were organically grown, they didn’t need to be washed before freezing, cutting down on freezer burn and ice crystals.

Plump and juicy blueberries

I’m over eager and always pick the blackberries too soon, when they are still a bit sour. But wait too long, and the other critters get them first.

Wild blackberries

Though our upcoming move is an exciting new chapter, I’ll be sorry to miss the rest of the life cycle and harvest for the many plants (and animals) we’ve helped to nurture; soup beans, potatoes, butternut squash, and others.  We’ve been spoiled for grocery stores. H & M were kind and generous enough to give us our own little section of the garden, in which we are growing sugar baby watermelon and pablano peppers, which will need our tending even after our move.  So H & M won’t have seen the last of us, or our appetites, and I’m hoping we’ll somehow sneak our way in for a slice of blueberry pie down the road.

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